We work together on a person-to-person basis at the neighborhood and community level to learn how we can better manage our diabetes. We also coach one another on how to more effectively communicate with our health care team and provide social supports to participants wanting to talk about and share our journey as persons with diabetes.
Did you know that recent research shows that this process is more effective than most medical practices alone in helping diabetics reach and sustain their management goals?
In early 2010, my wife Sharon and I started A Partnership Of Diabetics (A-POD) in the Phillips Community of south Minneapolis—considered the most culturally-diverse, economically-challenged in Minnesota. If we can make our program work here, we thought, it just might work anywhere!
We’re simply one diabetic talking with another and meet together in small groups designed for checking-in and sharing ideas and experiences. We’ve learned to build a program around a community of people open to trust one another and rely on each other’s support, which we think is the major gap in many diabetes programs. Compared to a clinical average of roughly an hour of annual contact with primary health care professionals, A-POD utilizes
Neither practicing medicine nor giving out medical advice, we urge participants to keep in contact with their own health care practitioners. Participants receive the equivalent of nearly 90 hours contact each year! No clinic or hospital anywhere can come close to matching the number of hours we meet together to address the constant ups and downs of diabetes. This approach keeps us from becoming overwhelmed by the daily challenges that diabetes presents and offers an early warning system for more serious issues.
We begin each Meet-up with a check-in where our weight and blood pressure are recorded. Every three months, those without insurance perform their own A1c tests using the Bayer system.
When we share, support and challenge each other we discover how similar, yet unique each of us are as diabetics. Those who choose to be silent and just listen are honored just as much as those who talk. There's tears and laughter, but at the end of the day, each of the participants who stayed with the program have had demonstrable progress with their diabetes outcomes.
A-POD is not just for those who need help and support, but also provides an opportunity for those who have successfully managed their condition, to mentor and share with the community their hard-earned skills. Tim is an insulin-dependent (Type 1) diabetic who is approaching 45 years of success in his management skills. He spends countless hours mentoring others online through diabetes specific websites. He shares while learning more about himself and how to better improve his outcomes. Tim is not unique in his service to other diabetics, but he certainly sets a fine example of giving back.
At A-POD Meet-ups, we discuss healthy eating and physical activities, and given our new location at the Phillips Community Center, we now have the Phillips Fitness Center and a commercial kitchen/dining room next door so we can demonstrate healthier practices instead of just talking about them. Every Wednesday, a group of us gather at the Minneapolis Downtown YWCA for a 45-60 minute session in the pool. Soon we will have a restored swimming pool in our own building as well and will be on our way to further creating the first comprehensive, community-based chronic condition “mall”.
In 2011, A-POD initiated a Somali Elder Women's Diabetes Management Workshop where participants speak little or no English. We recruited native Somali speakers with healthcare experience to interpret and help us design and implement demonstrations and listening sessions. Everybody was completely amazed how easily A-POD’s diabetes management strategies can be applied even by those unable to read any language. We have continued with a series of weekly Meet-ups conducted exclusively in the Somali language and hope to expand in 2015-16 into all of the high-rise apartment building in our community.
Through A Partnership Of Diabetics, we learned that the greatest opportunity for effective diabetes self-management and recovery is centered around a carefully-constructed network of family, social, and community-based resources that complement the assistance by our chosen health care providers. A-POD supplements current health care initiatives, it does not supplant them. Through A-POD, we are truly on the way to controlling our diabetes for life!
Through its Minneapolis-based Backyard Initiative, Allina Health Systems provided ongoing financial support and by Novo Nordisk, a global manufacturer of diabetes-related products. Novo provides funding for our Monthly Diabetes Breakfasts.
To participate in upcoming A-POD Meet-ups or a monthly Diabetes Breakfast, contact Robert Albee at firstname.lastname@example.org. These events are held at the Phillips Community Center, 2323 11th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404. A-POD’s Meet-up schedule is published at Meetup.com.